Marvelous Madrid

5 Reasons Spain is the Best European Country

So what’s the deal with everyone referencing, almost exclusively, Paris and Rome when they talk about taking a European vacation? I don’t get it. Where’s the love for my beloved country of Spain?! By this time I’ve been to my fair share of European countries (Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland) and literally none of them hold a candle to Spain. So I’m going to declare it, loud and proud: Spain is undoubtedly the best European country, and here’s why:

1.The Food PicMonkey Collage

THE FOOOD! Where do I even begin?! Paella, tortilla, tapas, cured meats and cheese; the list is a long one. Spanish food is amazingly delicious and wonderfully cheap. There’s no other european country where you are basically guaranteed a free snack with every drink you order.

2. The People peopleeee

Working as an Auxiliar and living with Spanish students means I get the best of both worlds. I’ve witnessed the kindness, warmness, and overall welcoming disposition of pretty much everyone I’ve met here, both at work and at home. The warmth and kindness of the Spanish personality is deeply ingrained in their culture: e.g. double cheek kissing STRANGERS when you first meet! If that doesn’t tell you about what kind of people they are, then I don’t know what will.

3. The Architecture architecturee I live in the center of Madrid which means I have the pleasure of being surrounded by the most beautiful buildings. Whether it’s the colored apartments, the never-ending sea of terraces, or the ornate details on the older structures – pretty much every building here is a work of art.

4. The History aqueducts viewSHANNY

Spain is old. This has made me realize that, in comparison to Europe, nothing is very old in the U.S. There’s stuff here from the Roman Empire! Isn’t that crazy? It seems like every Spanish city is rich with history: Granda with the Alhambra, Segovia with the Aqueducts, not to mention all the castles and walls and other miscellaneous historical things scattered throughout the country.

5. It’s Affordable clarasss

Hotels, food, transportation, attractions: everything is so affordable here. To give you a hint: Logan and I usually spend 20 euros on two nights out (lots of eating and drinking), and a weekend lunch. Beers are rarely more than 1.50, and menu items are hardly ever priced over 10 euros. Needless to say we’ve been living a bit of an indulgent life here.

So have I convinced you that Spain is the greatest country in Europe? I hope so.

3 Spanish Habits I Envy

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1. The double cheek kiss

 This is the most common greeting in Spain. Not only do you do it when you first meet someone, other acceptable times to give besitos are: if you haven’t seen each other for a few days, holidays, birthdays, or simply just because. Something about the intimacy and kindness of this greeting is really touching to me, and I desperately wish this was common in the states *hmph.*

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2. R&R
  Taking things slow, resting, and relaxing are pillars of the Spanish lifestyle. I’m not saying they don’t work hard, I’m saying that they are better at mastering a good work/life balance (at least what I’ve seen from my colleagues and roommates). So let’s all take a chill pill and understand most seemingly stressful situations are actually nbd.
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3. Not drinking to get drunk
  Fellow youths take note. If you set foot in any bar here you’ll immediately notice the striking differences between these bars and the ones in the states. Whether it’s the florescent lighting (but hey, at least I can see your face), lack of club music (I can actually hear you *gasp*), or the tapa that comes with every drink – Spaniards know what’s up. The bar scene is geared more towards catching up with your friends, eating some good food, and ultimately relaxing (refer back to habit #2). P.S. it is still very easy to get drunk solely from red wine and beer.

Selfies in Spain

Buenas mis amigos! When I was packing my life away for a year in Spain I had to decide which of my favorite clothes would make the final cut into my 50lbs of allotted baggage. While I’ve been here I feel like I have truly become the master of layering, accessorizing, and putting together solid outfits with my minimal wardrobe. So I wanted to share my daily style with all of you wonderful people.

P.S. I think I have a bit of a selfie problem… s3lfie4 s3lfie3 s3lfie2 s3lfie1

5 Mini Cultural Differences

Who doesn’t love cultural differences?! I do! I’ve been living and working in Spain for almost 5 months now; and while there are obviously some huge cultural differences between the states and Madrid, there are also some little differences that I think are pretty funny.

1. They always use gridline notebooks

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You know those notebooks you only used for AP Calculus, yeah they use those for everything here. Another weird school supply I’ve noticed is that people don’t use mechanical pencils they use the wooden ones, but these pencils don’t have erasers attached to the end.

2. The ground level of a building is 0.

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If you push “1” you will go to the floor we usually refer to as “2.” I feel like their way makes a little more sense, seeing as how the ground floor is the 0 floor, and the first floor is the first floor up. Come on, America.

3. No coffee creamer.  

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Say goodbye to your beloved Sugar Free Hazelnut coffee creamer. Coffee con leche is the only way to dilute your favorite brew here.

4. Wine is cheaper than water.

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If you go to a restaurant, or if you’re at a bar don’t expect to get a free glass of water. Un vaso de agua will usually cost you around 2 euros, whereas a copa de vino will only cost 1.50 euros. No complaints over here.

5. Spanish people eat 5 meals

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Yes, the meals are smaller, but I’m referring to them as meals because, unlike snacking in American, these tiny meals happen around the same time every day.

  • The first meal is breakfast and they usually have a pastry or piece of bread with coffee,
  • The second meal is around 11 where people have another coffee with a small sandwich, a piece of tortilla, or a pastry
  • Around 2:30 they eat lunch which is the biggest meal of the day,
  • The fourth meal is around 5pm and I’ve noticed people eating mainly small sandwiches, salads, fruits, or yogurt
  • The last meal is dinner (a light meal:soup, salad, sandwich, etc) around 9:30-10pm.

Top Notch Tapas

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TAPAS! A post devoted to our favorite Spanish snack time is long overdue. For those of you who don’t know, a tapa is a little snack that is served with your drink FO FREE. And honestly, after all these tasty snacks I’ve been enjoying with my vino tinto, I don’t think I can ever return to the American bar scene. Sorrrry. Another note on the bar scene here, as long as you aren’t in a club, you can actually hear the other person you’re out with. Amazing, right?! When we would go out for a night on the town in Chicago we could hardly see each other with the dim lighting, let alone actually hear each other over the blasting music. In Spain their bar scene is chill, cheap, and full of snacks. I digress.

After reading this post about two tapas bars that are known for giving you tons of food, Logan and I decided to make a little trip and see what the deal was. So let me give you the low down. There are two bars across the street from each other. One is called Amigos, and the other is called Enamigos (LOL good one guys, I see what you did there). Regardless, both give you a s*** ton of tapas.

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Looked at all that delicious fried food. Just call me an om nom nomivore, because I seriously pigged out on this one guys. Amigos was really good and the bartender was SO nice. Every time the cooks finished cooking one dish he would bring it out to us, and we didn’t even have to buy another drink (usually it’s a 1 tapa per drink rule here in Madrid). Amigos was my personal favorite. Wine was dirt cheap (2.50 euro), and super delicious. [tapas not pictured: croquetas, cheese, and bologna type meat]

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I’m sorry Enamigos, I know we did you a disservice by eating at Amigos first and getting too full to enjoy your tapas arrangement, but life just isn’t fair. Overall, Enamigos was good, we had a lot of the same type of tapas here, but no bread, and that’s why they lost in my eyes [not pictured: the croquetas we ate the second she put the plate down].

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Only in Spain is the alcohol cheaper than the pop (soda for my Wisconsin readers).

 

Here are the addresses for these bars in case you’re ever in Madrid (P.S. there are about 1 billion bars in Madrid called Amigos)

 

What: Bar Los Amigos
Where: c/ Ezequiel Solana 115
Metro: La Almudena, Ascao
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11:00 – 00:30, Closed on Mondays
Price: Drinks are 2.50 – 4.00 depending on size; very good prices

 

A Walk in the Park

Retiro Park

Photo Credit: Anonymous

Logan and I live in el centro in Madrid, meaning that we live super close to pretty much everything, including Retiro Park (shown above). Retiro is just a couple metro stops, or a 25 min walk from our piso (talk about lucky)! The weather is absolutely beautiful here (75 and sunny everyday), so what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than in a beautiful park?!

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The park has a really big man made lake near the center. People go out on little paddle boats and feed the coy fish, it’s pretty adorable.

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See all those adorable families rowing their little hearts out?! Ugh, too cute to handle. Behind me is a super cool monument, I’m not sure who it is, I could look it up: but I really don’t feel like it (#sorrynotsorry). The Spanish are all about grand statues, and the statues tend to make everything look like a big deal. Kudos to you Spaniards.

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Logan looks like he could make a pretty good statue, what do you think?

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The garden entrance is probably the most beautiful part of Retiro Park, and it was mine and Logan’s favorite spot. Doesn’t it look like Alice in Wonderland?!

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It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times: Part 1

If you’ve been following any of our social media accounts you would think living in Madrid has been nothing but sunshine, rainbows, and happy feelings. But obviously reality is a bit different. While we do love Madrid, there are just some things that get on our nerves.

Peeved:

1. Cash Moneyz 

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Everyone knows Spain uses the Euro. And thats fine, the Euro is great.  My only problem is that €1 and €2 are coins, not paper. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when I give someone a €10 bill and get back 3 lbs of change, it makes me a little upset.

2. Light Switches

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Why are they so big?! Its like the country is full of people with poor vision.  Also they put the bathroom light switch on the outside of the bathroom…call me American, but that does not seem ideal.

3. Power

I just feel like it would solve a lot of problems if everyone just followed the same system.  Then you wouldn’t have to buy these stupid things to make your electronics work.

4. Nutrition Labels

EVERYTHING is per 100 grams.  Thats fine if you are looking at something like meat, but terrible for something like salsa.  NO ONE EATS 100 g OF SALSA!  The entire jar is like 70 g, so why would the nutrition label be per 100 grams?!

5. Hard to get around (crazy street layout)

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I guess this is also part of Spain’s charm, but when you are trying to get somewhere for the first time, the winding streets are mega confusing, especially in comparison to the good ol’ Chicago grid system.

Love:

1. Madrid’s Metro 

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Everyone loves Chicago’s el, but the Metro here wins by far.  Its fast, efficient, and clean (none of which can be said about the el).

2. Tapas/Cheap eats

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In no other country do they give you free food with a €1.5 drink.  You don’t really get to choose, but its guaranteed to be Spanish food…and that means its going to be good.  Plus the drinks are  €1.5.  Thats like 1/4 the cost in Chicago!

3. The people

People here are great and love to meet new people. When introduced, you exchange a quick kiss on each cheek.  It really feels much more personal than the standard handshake back home. (when 2 men meet they still shake hands, aka no kissing)

4. Language/// Idioma

I studied Spanish so obviously I like this part of the country.  Its pretty much the reason we’re here.  Also tapas…that’s the other reason we’re here.

5. Architecture/History

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Just google image Madrid and you will see what I mean.